Love itself describes its own perfection. Be speechless and listen. ~ Rumi
I cannot look at this photo of young Rachel Staheli washing Peyton’s hair without remembering what it was like to watch this act of pure love. It was arresting. It was surprising. It left her mom, Heidi, and me speechless. For Rachel, age nine, it was normal.
It was Rachel’s idea to wash Peyton’s hair. Rachel was by Peyton’s side constantly while we stayed with the Stahelis when we came to Denver for Peyton’s cancer treatments. Their home was a second home to us. The Stahelis are those choice friends in life that you get to call family. In the most thoughtful of ways they cared for us, cooked and shared meals with us, cried with us, laughed with us, went to doctor’s appointments with us, prayed with us. They encircled us in the arms of their love and didn’t let go. Once I made the mistake of starting to tell Heidi that their kindnesses were so abundant that I felt our situation might be a burden to them. As I began to express my worries, Heidi quickly quelled them, like someone stomping out the first sparks of a brush fire. Because of the way she loved, I would never carry the burden of feeling a burden to them.
So many times I have said that I do not know how we would have been able to get through those years without the Stahelis. We lived in Glenwood Springs, three hours from Denver, so with each trip for chemotherapy and doctor’s appointments we had the comforts of their home and company instead of having to stay all by ourselves at the Ronald McDonald House or a hotel. For three and a half years and more this went on, days and nights, they opened their home and hearts to us.
I observed something about the Stahelis during that time and since. Mike, Heidi and their four children have created a beautiful habit of noticing. The way they notice is like the HyperSight cameras that firemen use, allowing them to see through smoke and to the areas of most concern. The Stahelis see things that couldn’t be seen with the naked eye, things that you weren’t even aware that you needed. Like compassionate first responders, they get right to it. There’s no hesitation with helping whatever they see with their well-trained eye that needs help. They developed this ability because they truly love people. It's that simple.
Once, Peyton was on the floor of their living room in a lot of pain from the chemotherapy, specifically from the steroid prednisone — all 75-sudden-milligrams of it. It was a ridiculous amount in his small body and caused him to be puffed up and swollen. He was not yet used to this kind of pain and was on constant pain medication for it. I left him for a moment to see what other medicine I could possibly give him that I had not already and when I returned empty-handed there was Rachel already calming him, on the floor right next to him. She was gently scratching his back and talking softly and sweetly into his ear. Nothing else was needed. What she noticed and gave was perfect.
“Love itself describes its own perfection.”
Rachel was born premature and barely survived. When we learned that Peyton's cancer treatment would end on February 15th, we couldn’t wait to tell Rachel. That was a special day for another reason. Of all the days that Peyton could be done with childhood cancer treatment, it was on her birthday! Rachel and Peyton are both greatly blessed to be alive and our families love having this special day together to celebrate that.
We hold so much love and gratitude in our hearts for the Staheli family and to sweet Rachel, who not surprisingly, aspires to be a neonatal nurse for babies in NICU.Jess is Peyton’s mom and co-founder of Peyton’s Potion. She is a Life Story journal writer and storyteller. Jess has been keeping journals since she first learned to write. Her journal entries throughout Peyton’s cancer treatment were also posted regularly on caringbridge.org.